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McNulty showing all his rivals how to conjure magic

Justin McNulty has suddenly thrust himself to the fore as one of the brightest young managers in the country.

The 2002 Armagh All-Ireland winner went into last week-end’s All-Ireland football championship quarter-finals on a hiding to nothing as his Laois side were distinct underdogs against reigning champions Dublin.

Yet but for a ration of luck the Dubs might have bitten the dust in a match that was ultimately decided by a stroke of misfortune.

Laois defender John O’Loughlin deflected a seemingly innocuous fisted effort from Dublin’s Michael Darragh Macauley into his own net at a crucial stage of the first-half and this was to prove a telling score as Pat Gilroy’s side won by 1-12 to 0-12.

On a weekend though which saw Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney and Down boss James McCartan endure the defeat of humiliating defeats, McNulty emerged from the All-Ireland series with his reputation considerably enhanced.

This seemed an unlikely possibility when Laois fell to Longford at the first hurdle in the Leinster Championship but their spirited journey through the qualifiers when they claimed the scalps of Carlow, Leitrim, Monaghan and Meath rekindled confidence and optimism for the meeting with the Dubs.

And the Laois performance in that game has now given Mullaghbawn native increased status within the game with the Laois county board now anxious to make sure that they retain his services.

This is rather in contrast to the misgivings and doubts that were being expressed not so long ago but the former defender remains philosophical about recent developments.

“Football can be very cruel and you have to accept that. I thought that my players gave massive effort against Dublin and did themselves proud,” says McNulty.

Numerous commentators and analysts focussed on what they perceived to be a poor Dublin display.

“People will say and write what they think,” adds McNulty. “The important thing is that Laois played with real pride and intensity.”

Meanwhile, the Derry board will convene tonight to review this year’s championship itinerary by all its county teams and there will be special emphasis on the performances of the senior football team.

Manager John Brennan has been under fire lately but Derry officers are keen to ensure that an in-depth study of all aspects of the team will be undertaken before any decisions are taken in relation to the future.

Derry have been particularly badly hit by key players since Brennan first took up their reins two years ago and this has not helped their progress.

Belfast Telegraph